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Superimposed microstructures of pyrite in auriferous quartz veins as fingerprints of episodic fluid infiltration in the Wulong Lode gold deposit, NE China

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Complex microstructures of pyrite induced by superimposed deformation and fluid infiltration in lode gold deposits can record time-integrated physicochemical changes of ore-forming fluids. This study used a combination of techniques (EBSD, μ-XRF, EMPA, APT, and TEM) to characterize and decode the microstructures of pyrite in an optically homogeneous polymetallic sulfide veinlet of the Wulong lode gold deposit. The EBSD data show that the sulfide veinlet is composed of microstructurally heterogeneous pyrite grains in three generations, i.e., Py1, Py2, and Py3. The pyrite grains display diverse deformation-induced microstructures, i.e., kinked low-angle (0.5 to 5°) boundaries within Py1, curvilinear low-angle boundaries penetrating both Py1 and Py2, and foam-like textured Py3. These microstructures may offer pathways to transport exotic fluids, leading to superimposed microstructures in early-formed pyrite. Integrated μ-XRF, EMPA, APT, and HRTEM data sets present grain- to nanometer-scale elemental distributions of Au, As, Bi, and Te, and reveal that the Bi-(Te)-rich mineral associations, rather than arsenian pyrite, are major gold carriers in the polymetallic sulfide veinlet. The superimposed microstructures in pyrite reveal that the major Au mineralization stage likely comprises two episodes of ore-forming fluids. The early-episode fluids had T-fO2 condition overlapping the stable field of pyrrhotite, which dissolved Py1 and developed Bi-(Te)-rich melts as major Au scavengers. The late-episode fluids crystallized arsenian Py2 containing 20–60 ppm of invisible gold. This study highlights the effectiveness of multiple techniques to reveal complex microstructures of pyrite, which can serve as critical fingerprints to establish a temporal framework of fluid evolution and Au deposition in lode gold deposits.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge support of Curtin University's Microscopy & Microanalysis Facility and the John de Laeter Centre, whose instrumentation has been supported by University, State and Commonwealth Government funding. This paper greatly benefited from constructive and thorough reviews from Ya-Fei Wu, and an anonymous reviewer, and the editorial suggestions from Bernd Lehmann. This is contribution No.IS-3161 from GIGCAS.


The study was supported by National Key R&D Program of China (2018YFA0702600), NSFC grants (No. 41702042 and 41921003), Department of Science and Technology of Guangdong Province (2017GC010578) and Science and Technology Planning of Guangdong Province, China (2020B1212060055).

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Wei Tan did the field work, analyzed results of all the experiments, and wrote the manuscript; Steven M. Reddy and Denis Fougerouse did the EBSD and APT analysis and helped write the paper; Christina Yan Wang conceptualized the project and helped write the paper; Bo Wei contributed to the field work and sample preparation; Haiyang Xian, Yiping Yang and Hongping He did the TEM analysis and helped interpret the TEM data.

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Correspondence to Christina Yan Wang.

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Tan, W., Reddy, S.M., Fougerouse, D. et al. Superimposed microstructures of pyrite in auriferous quartz veins as fingerprints of episodic fluid infiltration in the Wulong Lode gold deposit, NE China. Miner Deposita 57, 685–700 (2022).

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